Caring for the Elderly : IS MOM A SUCKER?

Sometimes a caregiver is a combination of maid, doctor, spiritual advisor and amateur detective.  It’s no secret that elderly people sometimes become more like teenagers and children then mature adults.  So, while we wish they wouldn’t do it, your senior citizen mom or dad may be hiding a few things from you.

And one thing parents are fiercely independent about is their finances and how they use their money.  But being independent doesn’t translate into being wise in how your retired parents use their money.  And its one of your jobs as caregiver to look after your parents well being which means watching where their money goes so their limited financial resources can last a long time.

There are plenty of horror stories about senior citizens becoming victims of scams and clever sales people who sell them a hope and a dream in exchange for their very real money.  We shouldn’t be too surprised that slick talking sales people will call or email our parents.  After all, they try to get by you so why should your parents be immune to it?  But the thing you don’t know is if or when your aging parents become a victim of a scam and get ripped off. 

One thing is for sure is that your senior citizen parents are not gong to tell you they got ripped off.  So you have to become that amateur detective to find out if mom is a sucker for a slick salesman and if you need to step in and start getting these shysters out of your parent’s lives.  Some signs that your parent has become a sucker are…

.   Watch your parent’s mail.  If mom is getting an unusually large amount of junk mail and a lot of get rich quick schemes, phony contests or other scams, it’s possible your parent has become a victim of a scam or two. 
.   Spend a little more time at your parent’s house or apartment and answer the phone for her.  If there are more sales calls for scam offers or charities, then your parent may have already fallen pray to these kinds of calls and their name got passed around to other scam artists.
.   Are there a lot of junk items lying around mom’s house that look like the crap that are used for “amazing gifts” or junk products?
.   Start paying attention to your parent’s budget.  For one thing, if mom doesn’t want you poking around her checkbook, there may be some problems going on with her account.  But if you see a lot of checks to scam artists, you know mom has become a sucker.  Watch her credit card statements as well for similar activity.
.   Watch her email and look particularly at her “sent items” folder.  There you can see if she responded to any scam email schemes.

Its going to take some gentle convincing to get mom to let you see some of these documents and you can expect her to be defensive about her activities.  Getting involved with scams, bogus contests and get rich quick schemes has an addictive quality to it and even though mom may have already been suckered out of hundreds of dollars, she still will fall for the next crook that comes along because of the addiction.  So as you would with any addict, be loving and gentle in how you approach the problem but do not neglect the problem either.

The key to selling your aging parent on letting you take over her checkbook is convenience.  You might start by taking over her taxes.  Then once she feels comfortable with you being that close to her books, you can offer to take over bill paying and balancing the checkbook.  Then you can gently begin to question expenditures that are questionable.

Don’t try to get her money back from crooks that have already victimized your aging parent.  But you can begin making it very difficult for people to get money out of her account.  Right away, cancel all direct debits that are not easily identifiable.  Also, start getting control over the flow of junk mail, phone calls and emails.  By making access to your parents accounts and to her to try to victimize her again,  you can be both the detective and now the guard dog to keep bad people from getting to your parent’s much needed money.

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